Although commonly known as daffodils, the term Narcissus is the correct genus name for these spring blooming bulbs. Narcissus species and hybrids come in a myriad of sizes, colors, and forms, and some are extremely fragrant. While mostly native to the Mediterranean, a few daffodil species originated from China and Asia. These beautiful flowers are symbols of rebirth and new beginnings, and for that reason, they are the March birth flower. A daffodil bouquet given for a tenth wedding anniversary gift is believed to ensure happiness.
It is thought that the early colonists brought narcissus bulbs with them to America from Europe, but there is no written proof. The first recorded shipment was in 1740, when Peter Collison, a friend of John Bartram’s, sent 40 varieties of narcissus to Bartram in Philadelphia. Since that time, hybridizers have developed thousands of named cultivars.
Care should be taken not to cut back daffodil foliage immediately after blooming. Let the foliage die back naturally to enable the plant to manufacture and translocate food downward for better bulb development. One way to hide the foliage is to plant the bulbs in perennial beds or in between daylilies. As the summer perennials begin to emerge in the spring, they will hide the senescing (yellowing) daffodil leaves. After the leaves are completely yellow and dry up, they can be easily removed from the bed area.
Each fall, I plant several hundred bulbs to add to my landscape collection. Then in the spring, before their foliage dies back, I take photographs of areas in my garden where I want to add more bulbs the next fall. This prevents me from inadvertently digging up previously planted bulbs and serves as a good record for future plantings.
I’ve written articles before about various heirloom or “pass-a-long” plants. In my own garden, I have heirloom daffodils that came from my parents’, my grandparents’, and even my great-grandparents’ gardens. So, every time these family treasurers bloom, I think of how much joy the flowers must have brought to my ancestors and that they now have become a part of my floral family genealogy.
For more information on daffodils, see HGIC 1155, Spring-Flowering Bulbs.